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Nevada's DACA Recipients Celebrate Supreme Court's Decision

(AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) students gather in front of the Supreme Court on Thursday, June 18, 2020, in Washington. The Supreme Court on Thursday rejected President Donald Trump's effort to end legal protections for 650,000 young immigrants, a stunning rebuke to the president in the midst of his reelection campaign.

Amid the coronavirus pandemic and national unrest over racism and police brutality, many Nevadans had another worry on their mind. 

Thousands of Nevadans are considered Dreamers, meaning they are a part of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals immigration program or DACA. 

Their status has been in limbo since President Donald Trump announced he was ending the program in 2017. 

Until today.

Thursday morning, the Supreme Court ruled against President Trump giving respite to thousands of immigrants brought to the country as children.

“Extremely relieved,” is how DACA recipient Erika Castro described her feelings after hearing the news.

Castro has been in Las Vegas since she was 3 years old. She was brought here by her parents from Mexico.  

She said today's decision is not only a relief for people like herself who are covered by the program but by those who left out when the administration rescinded the program in 2017. 

Under DACA, people must be over 15 years old but under 31; must have moved to the country before June 15, 2012; graduated high school or earned an equivalency and they have to go through a background check.

It is an extensive and expensive process that Castro says people who can now apply because of the court's decision need to be ready for.

“That’s going to be the next step of making sure that we’re preparing folks who are going to be applying for the first time, making sure that they’re prepared, that they know their rights and that they know what the process looks like so they can make the decision for themselves,” she said.

Rico Ocampo is a youth and program organizer for Make the Road Nevada. He is also a DACA recipient. 

He said he is elated and overjoyed by the decision but the work is far from over. 

"It certainly gives us a sigh of relief but a sigh of relief is not what we're looking for," he said, "What we're looking for is comprehensive immigration reform and we've been asking for that for the past 20 years."

Ocampo said there needs to be a pathway to citizenship for not only Dreamers but also for undocumented immigrants who have been in this country contributing to society.

He noted that if the High Court had ruled the other way it could have cost the country billions of dollars in economic output. 

Ocampo said comprehensive immigration reform would also address some of the restrictive laws that were put in place during the 90s.

"Those were done in the 1990s this is 2020," he said, "We want to be able to not only move with the times but also ensure that these laws that are putting place are fair and just."

Maria Nieto is the state coordinator for Mi Familia Vota. She agreed with Ocampo that while she's pleased by today's ruling the work for other people in the undocumented immigrant community is far from over.

"We're definitely not putting our guards down because we know that the Trump Administration has always tried to cut this program out," she said, "It's like - yes we're celebrating today but we will continue to organize not just to keep this program alive but also to get comprehensive immigration reform."

She said advocates will be working on changing immigration laws to protect not just DACA recipients but family and friends who are still undocumented.

Nieto is concerned that the administration may try to eliminate the program in another way because Thursday's ruling said there wasn't enough evidence to back up the administration's claims.

In his opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote: "The appropriate recourse is therefore to remand to DHS [Department of Homeland Security] so that it may reconsider the problem anew."

Castro, Ocampo and Nieto all said that today's ruling has energized them to do more for the undocumented community and to organize voters for November.

"Right now, we want to be able to also let our community know that we are not going to leave them behind and I'm talking about the undocumented community that are not Dreamers that have not been able to take advantage of this program. We are going to be fighting for them as much as we are going to be fighting for ourselves."

Erika Castro, DACA recipients;  Rico Ocampo, youth and programs organizer, Make the Road NV;   Maria Nieto, State Coordinator, Mi Familia Vota  

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Prior to taking on the role of Broadcast Operations Manager in January 2021, Rachel was the senior producer of KNPR's State of Nevada program for 6 years. She helped compile newscasts and provided coverage for and about the people of Southern Nevada, as well as major events such as the October 1 shooting on the Las Vegas strip, protests of racial injustice, elections and more. Rachel graduated with a bachelor's degree of journalism and mass communications from New Mexico State University.